The Aztecs are famous as conquerors, as sometime cannibals, and as, eventually, the conquered of an expanding European empire. This episode goes beyond human sacrifice to look at how Aztec beliefs about the body, religion, and nature were reflected in their practices of medicine and healing. Dismissed as sorcerers by some Spanish observers, physicians were significant to Aztec culture, and active in providing healing, surgery, and preventative care.
Jane Manning James was a devoted member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the moment she was baptized in the 1840s. Here, Christine and Elizabeth discuss her experiences as one of the earliest Black women in the majority-white religion - including her interactions with the church's founder, Joseph Smith, and her fight for full inclusion.
Podcasters: Christine and Elizabeth
Witchcraft in the late medieval and early modern European world was a highly gendered crime. The majority of victims were women but a significant percentage were men – and in some regions, men made up the majority of the accused. The male witch appeared wherever there were witchcraft accusations – he was known as a maleficius, a wicca, a sorcier, or hexenmeister … just don’t call him a warlock.
In 1562, Spaniard Diego de Landa destroyed 5000 documents recording 800 years of Mayan religion, culture, and history. The Spanish claimed to be fighting black magic and only 4 pages survived their destruction. In this episode, Lesley tells the story of the burning and the consequence of these actions.
In our last episode we discussed revolutions in the United States and France, and this time we turn our eyes toward China and Russia. Here, our Summer Special crossover concludes with Christine and Elizabeth chatting with Pod Academy’s Gil and Rutger about 1965’s Dr. Zhivago and 1987’s The Last Emperor.
Podcasters: Elizabeth, Christine, Pod Academy’s Gil and Rutger
How do modern films portray revolutions? What are some of the things regularly included - and just as regularly left out? In the first of this special pair of episodes Elizabeth and Christine step away from their scripts and join Gil and Rutger of Pod Academy for a Summer Special conversation about 2000’s The Patriot and 2012’s Les Miserables.
Podcasters: Elizabeth, Christine, Pod Academy’s Gil and Rutger
Most likely, many of us have heard tales around how the colony of Georgia was founded by James Oglethorpe, a philanthropist, to be a haven for Britain's debtors but, as always, that isn't the whole story. In this episode, Elizabeth delves into how slavery of Africans was illegal early on in the colony and why that changed - including who drove the demand.
In the late 1800s, Charles Stewart Parnell was a heavyweight in Irish politics - until his affair with a woman named Katharine O'Shea came to light. Join Christine for a look at the scandal that dominated headlines and rocked the career of the so-called "Uncrowned King of Ireland".
The civil service examinations taken by the bureaucrats and administrators of imperial China were not merely academic. They also served as social rites of passage. Moreover, they were designed to test the moral aptitudes of test-takers for a lifetime of upholding Confucian ideals. Naturally, they were a source of individual stress, as well as a key part of imperial power and authority for centuries, outlasting several dynasties. This episode looks at the roles civil service examinations played in premodern China, and the mythos that grew around them.
In 1536, there were two Anne Boleyns in the Tower of London. One was a queen who helped inspire the English Reformation and stood accused of treason; the other was the aunt whose testimony may have helped to convict her. Lady Anne Shelton, née Boleyn, was the sister of the queen’s father, Thomas Boleyn and the mother of one of Henry VIII’s alleged mistresses. She was to play a critical role during the reign and fall of Henry’s second queen – who was her namesake and who became her nemesis.
Prester John, a legendary Christian king, endured in the imaginations of many medieval crusade theorists and geographers. Thought to be a savior who would assist the forces of Christendom to defeat Islam in a final crusade to take Jerusalem, Prester John occupied an important place in the minds of those who hoped for a successful crusade. In this episode, join newcomer Josh as he takes you on a whirlwind tour of Asia and Africa in search of this mythical figure.
Mulan is a story without a single historical precedent. From a medieval ballad to early modern narratives to plays and operas, it’s been told over and over again. Mulan’s exploits are always presented as having happened “once upon a time,” anytime from the Han dynasty to the early Tang period. These stories about a fierce heroine and her loyalties tell us a lot about changing ideas of gender and cultural identity in China.
The first of Disney’s Renaissance films was a project in progress since 1930. Based on the writings of Hans Christian Andersen, the film updated the original tragic story for a modern family audience. In this episode, Lesley places the original story within the religious, cultural, and imperial context of its creation...while revealing a personal pain the author wrote into the mermaid’s story.
In 1995, Disney released Pocahontas, its first animated film based on a real person. Set in 1607, the film depicts the encounter between Pocahontas, an American Indian woman, and John Smith, an English settler, in what is now the state of Virginia. In this episode Christine uses the popular movie that gave us songs like "Colors of the Wind" as the starting point for separating fact from fiction and investigating the real life of Pocahontas.
The story of Aladdin is one of the most popular and most produced of the tales from the One Thousand and One Nights (also known in English as the Arabian Nights) and, yet, it isn't actually one of the original stories. In this episode, Elizabeth explains how the story of Aladdin entered the collection, including the young Syrian man who inspired a French author to write it.
When Victor Hugo wrote his novel, Notre-Dame of Paris in 1831, the cathedral of Notre Dame was over 600 years old and crumbling. The ensuing tale was one that inspired a massive renovation project and continues to stir imaginations today. In this week’s episode, Kristin talks about the story of Hugo’s Notre-Dame of Paris and its continuing resonance with modern audiences.
The English Civil War of the mid-17th century ended in the beheading of King Charles I and the establishment of the Commonwealth under of Oliver Cromwell. It also marked a turning point in the celebration of Christmas in Britain and its American colonies. In this episode, we will examine the rise of Puritan groups to power in the English Parliament, their attitudes toward the moral and ritual reform of the English Church, and how these groups in Britain and the colonies sought to purge Catholic and "pagan" influences in their society by banning the celebration of Christmas.
Between 1794 and 1804, the newly emancipated people of the colony of Saint-Domingue created a government under the leadership of Toussaint Louverture and defeated Napoleonic forces to become their own independent country. In this episode, Elizabeth explains the role of Louverture but also the international ramifications of the creation of Haiti.
In 1791, the enslaved people of France's wealthiest colony, Saint-Domingue, rose up for freedom. In this episode, Elizabeth examines the many factors that led to the abolition of slavery in the region now known as Haiti. The French Revolution, Kongolese leadership, social stratification, religion, and many other aspects all pay a role in what will become the first successful slave revolt of the Atlantic world.
Following a tumultuous life entrenched in Britain's art world, Elizabeth Siddal was laid to rest in 1862, but only a few years later her coffin was reopened. Find out the story of her life, marriage to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, death, and afterlife in this episode.